Our quiet country school is one of the last in the district to retain the rural nature of its early days, when Temperance Colony merged with Kutner Colony to create a school to meet the needs of both communities.
Temperance Colony School School District
Temperance Colony, located in the square bounded by today's Fowler, McKinley, Temperance and Belmont avenues, bore the moral stamp of its developer and one of early Fresno County's most prominent citizens, Moses J. Church (1819-1900), from the name to the character of its inhabitants.
The colony was born in late 1877 when Church, who founded the Fresno Canal and Irrigation Company, sold 20-acre parcels equipped with accessible irrigation. "Temperance" was selected as the name based on Church's insistence that colonists agree to follow other moral and character stipulations as dictated by Church, an Adventist opposed to the consumption of alcohol. Colonists had to agree not to make or sell alcohol and abstain from having such beverages in their homes. They were allowed to only plant grapes that would be used for the table or for raisins.
The Temperance Colony School District was organized June 12, 1878. The Thompson Official Historical Atlas Map of Fresno 1891 placed the colony's first school at today's Olive and Armstrong avenues, where present-day Temperance-Kutner Elementary School now sits.
Temperance Colony School's average attendance in 1904 was 46 students and 47 the following year. By 1948, the district's last year of separate operation before joining with Kutner Colony School District, enrollment had almost doubled to 85 students.
The Clovis Union High School District was established June 27, 1899. Temperance and the six other participating elementary school districts in the Clovis area -- Jefferson, Clovis, Garfield, Red Bank, Mississippi and Wolters -- were united to the new high school, but they retained their status as separate districts serving younger students.
A new brick building school with a Mission Revival facade was built in 1912 consisting of two rooms, a belfry and a tile roof. The school replaced the original 1878 facility and was built in the same location. In 1948, the building was condemned upon the discovery of cracks in the walls and was eventually demolished. A temporary 20- by 40-foot school was erected to house students while plans for a permanent facility were underway.
Part of the solution to their student housing problem was solved when Temperance Colony and Kutner Colony formed a union July 1, 1949. A new school located across the street from the original Temperance school was dedicated in April 1950.
Kutner Colony School District
In the late 1880s, families of Danish, German and Swedish descent settled in the area around what is today Highland and McKinley avenues in Kutner Colony.
Adolph Kutner (1836-1902) was a local land owner, grain merchant and partner in Kutner-Goldstein and Co.'s general merchandise stores located in Fresno and several other San Joaquin Valley communities. It was one of the largest mercantile businesses in California. He also served as president of the Farmers' National Bank of Fresno and of the Kutner Colony Company.
He left his home of Russian Poland at age 16 for the United States. Upon his arrival in the U.S., he followed various careers and ultimately ended up in Fresno in 1874 where he partnered with Sam Goldstein, a previous acquaintance of Kutner's. He amassed considerable wealth, but donated liberally, helped build Kutner Colony School and establish many churches, and gave to individuals in need.
In those days, immigrants like Kutner were banned by law from returning to Russia. He longed to visit his homeland, and the U.S. government stepped in on his behalf so that the Russian law was suspended to allow him to return to his native Russia. But Kutner, a noble man, would not take advantage of any exceptions afforded to him alone, and he died in August 1902 having never returned to his birthplace.
The children of the families of Kutner Colony first attended school in 1891 in a small, one-room wood cabin, but after a fire in the cabin, a new school facility was needed. As relayed in John Allan Dow's History of Public School Organization and Administration in Fresno County, California, Kutner Colony student Hans H. Hansen recalled in a Fresno Bee article the fate of the wood cabin school: "There were 40 students in the one room until the potbellied stove exploded. Thomas E. Maxwell was the teacher who, along with the pupils, formed a lunch bucket brigade to put out the blaze." Hansen graduated from Kutner School in 1899. He later became a rancher near Kings Canyon Road and served as a trustee of Kutner Colony District from 1910 to 1913.
On February 29, 1892, Kutner Colony School District was established with residents funding a new schoolhouse through a $2,200 bond. The school was situated on land donated by Kutner and was constructed by Fresno contractor John Jasper and residents of the colony. The facility, which boasted double oak doors and a bell imported from an eastern factory, was widely praised. The school opened in September 1892 to the 40 displaced students and their teacher Mr. Maxwell.
By 1912, enrollment had increased due to Kutner Colony's prosperity, propelling the community to build a new contemporary-style stucco facility. Most notable were the two pronounced arches leading to two separate front doors. Inside were two rooms and a basement. The new school was placed on the same site as the 1892 school which was salvaged and relocated to the far side of the schoolyard where it was used for 40 years as a part-time classroom and community center, even serving as the local Red Cross headquarters, and a location for patriotic meetings and Liberty Bond drives during World War I.
Kutner Colony School District had originally aligned with Sanger High School in an agreement that Kutner graduates would attend Sanger beginning their ninth grade year. However, on February 28, 1928, Kutner shifted to the Clovis Union High School District.
In 1948, county school administrators ordered that the Kutner Colony schoolhouse be abandoned due to damage. During the 1948-49 school year, Kutner's last year of separate operation, nearly 70 students were enrolled with Roberta Winslow serving as the school's last principal.
With both Kutner Colony and Temperance Colony facing student housing problems, it was decided that a unification might be in order. In August 1948, Kutner Colony residents voted 64 to three to unite with Temperance Colony, which became effective as of July 1, 1949.
By 1961, the 1912 Kutner Colony School was reported to have begun crumbling; today neither the 1892 nor the 1912 schoolhouses are in existence.